Chapter 6.

{374} CHARLES went to bed with a bad headache, and woke with a worse. Nothing remained but to order his bill and be off for London. Yet he could not go without taking a last farewell of the place itself. He was up soon after seven; and while the gownsmen were rising and in their respective chapels, he had been round Magdalen Walk and Christ Church Meadow. There were few or none to see him wherever he went. The trees of the Water Walk were variegated, as beseemed the time of year, with a thousand hues, arching over his head, and screening his side. He reached Addison's Walk; there he had been for the first time with his father, when he was coming into residence, just six years before to a day. He pursued it, and onwards still, till he came round in sight of the beautiful tower, which at length rose close over his head. The morning was frosty, and there was a mist; the leaves flitted about; all was in unison with the state of his feelings. He re-entered the monastic buildings, meeting with nothing but scouts with boxes of cinders, and old women carrying off the remains of the kitchen. He crossed to the Meadow, and walked steadily down to {375} the junction of the Cherwell with the Isis; he then turned back. What thoughts came upon him! for the last time! There was no one to see him; he threw his arms round the willows so dear to him, and kissed them; he tore off some of their black leaves and put them in his bosom. "I am like Undine," he said, "killing with a kiss. No one cares for me; scarce a person knows me." He neared the Long Walk again. Suddenly, looking obliquely into it, he saw a cap and gown; he looked anxiously; it was Jennings; there was no mistake; and his direction was towards him. Charles always had felt kindly towards him, in spite of his sternness, but he would not meet him for the world; what was he to do? He stood behind a large elm, and let him pass; then he set off again at a quick pace. When he had got some way, he ventured to turn his head round; and he saw Jennings at the moment, by that sort of fatality or sympathy which is so common, turning round towards him. He hurried on, and soon found himself again at his inn.

Strange as it may seem, though he had on the whole had as good success as Carlton in the "keen encounter of their wits" the night before, it had left an unsatisfactory effect on his mind. The time for action was come; argument was past, as he had himself said; and to recur to argument was only to confuse the clearness of his apprehension of the truth. He began to question whether he really had evidence enough for the step he was taking, and the temptation assailed him that he was giving up this world without gaining the next. Carlton evidently thought him excited; {376} what if it were true? Perhaps his convictions were, after all, a dream; what did they rest upon? He tried to recall his best arguments, and could not. Was there, after all, any such thing as truth? Was not one thing as good as another? At all events, could he not have served God well in his generation, where he had been placed? He recollected some lines in the Ethics of Aristotle, quoted by the philosopher from an old poet, in which the poor outcast Philoctetes laments over his own stupid officiousness, as he calls it, which had been the cause of his misfortunes. Was he not a busybody too? Why could he not let well alone? Better men than he had lived and died in the English Church. And then what if, as Campbell had said, all his so-called convictions were to vanish just as he entered the Roman pale, as they had done on his father's death? He began to envy Sheffield; all had turned out well with him—a good class, a fellowship, merely or principally because he had taken things as they came, and not gone roaming after visions. He felt himself violently assaulted; but he was not deserted, not overpowered. His good sense, rather his good Angel, came to his aid; evidently he was in no way able to argue or judge at that moment; the deliberate conclusions of years ought not to be set aside by the troubled thoughts of an hour. With an effort he put the whole subject from him, and addressed himself to his journey.

How he got to Steventon he hardly recollected; but gradually he came to himself, and found himself in a first-class of the Great Western, proceeding rapidly {377} towards London. He then looked about him to ascertain who his fellow-travellers were. The farther compartment was full of passengers, who seemed to form one party, talking together with great volubility and glee. Of the three seats in his own part of the carriage, one only, that opposite to him, was filled. On taking a survey of the stranger, he saw a grave person passing or past the middle age; his face had that worn, or rather that unplacid appearance, which even slight physical suffering, if habitual, gives to the features, and his eyes were pale from study or other cause. Charles thought he had seen his face before, but he could not recollect where or when. But what most interested him was his dress and appearance, which was such as is rarely found in a travelling-companion. It was of an unusual character, and, taken together with the small office-book he held in his hand, plainly showed Charles that he was opposite a Roman ecclesiastic. His heart beat, and he felt tempted to start from his seat; then a sick feeling and a sinking came over him. He gradually grew calmer, and journeyed on some time in silence, longing yet afraid to speak. At length, on the train stopping at the station, he addressed a few words to him in French. His companion looked surprised, smiled, and in a hesitating, saddish voice said that he was an Englishman. Charles made an awkward apology, and there was silence again. Their eyes sometimes met, and then moved slowly off each other, as if a mutual reconnoitring was in progress. At length it seemed to strike the stranger that he had abruptly stopped the {378} conversation; and, after apparently beating about for an introductory topic, he said, "Perhaps I can read you, sir, better than you can me. You are an Oxford man by your appearance."

Charles assented.

"A bachelor?" He was of near Master's standing. His companion, who did not seem in a humour for talking, proceeded to various questions about the University, as if out of civility. What colleges sent Proctors that year? Were the Taylor Professors appointed? Were they members of the Church of England? Did the new Bishop of Bury keep his Headship? &c., &c. Some matter-of-fact conversation followed, which came to nothing. Charles had so much to ask; his thoughts were busy, and his mind full. Here was a Catholic priest ready for his necessities; yet the opportunity was likely to pass away, and nothing to come of it. After one or two fruitless efforts, he gave it up, and leant back in his seat. His fellow-traveller began, as quietly as he could, to say office. Time went forward, the steam was let off and put on; the train stopped and proceeded, and the office was apparently finished; the book vanished in a side-pocket.

After a time Charles suddenly said, "How came you to suppose I was of Oxford?"

"Not entirely by your look and manner, for I saw you jump from the omnibus at Steventon; but with that assistance it was impossible to mistake."

"I have heard others say the same," said Charles; "yet I can't myself make out how an Oxford man should be known from another." {379}

"Not only Oxford men, but Cambridge men, are known by their appearance; soldiers, lawyers, beneficed clergyman; indeed every class has its external indications to those who can read them."

"I know persons," said Charles, "who believe that handwriting is an indication of calling and character."

"I do not doubt it," replied the priest; "the gait is another; but it is not all of us who can read so recondite a language. Yet a language it is, as really as hieroglyphics on an obelisk."

"It is a fearful thought," said Charles with a sigh, "that we, as it were, exhale ourselves every breath we draw."

The stranger assented; "A man's moral self," he said, "is concentrated in each moment of his life; it lives in the tips of his fingers, and the spring of his insteps. A very little thing tries what a man is made of."

"I think I must be speaking to a Catholic priest?" said Charles: when his question was answered in the affirmative, he went on hesitatingly to ask if what they had been speaking of did not illustrate the importance of faith? "One did not see at first sight," he said, "how it was rational to maintain that so much depended on holding this or that doctrine, or a little more or a little less, but it might be a test of the heart."

His companion looked pleased; however, he observed, that "there was no 'more or less' in faith; that either we believed the whole revealed message, or really we believed no part of it; that we ought to {380} believe what the Church proposed to us on the word of the Church".

"Yet surely the so-called Evangelical believes more than the Unitarian, and the High-Churchman than the Evangelical," objected Charles.

"The question," said his fellow-traveller, "is whether they submit their reason implicitly to that which they have received as God's word."

Charles assented.

"Would you say, then," he continued, "that the Unitarian really believes as God's word that which he professes to receive, when he passes over and gets rid of so much that is in that word?"

"Certainly not," said Charles.

"And why?"

"Because it is plain," said Charles, "that his ultimate standard of truth is not the Scripture, but, unconsciously to himself, some view of things in his mind which is to him the measure of Scripture."

"Then he believes himself, if we may so speak," said the priest, "and not the external word of God."


"Well, in like manner," he continued, "do you think a person can have real faith in that which he admits to be the word of God, who passes by, without attempting to understand, such passages as 'the Church the pillar and ground of the truth'; or, 'whosesoever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven'; or, 'if any man is sick, let him call for the priests of the Church, and let them anoint him with oil'?" {381}

"No," said Charles; "but, in fact, we do not profess to have faith in the mere text of Scripture. You know, sir," he added hesitatingly, "that the Anglican doctrine is to interpret Scripture by the Church; therefore we have faith, like Catholics, not in Scripture simply, but in the whole word committed to the Church, of which Scripture is a part."

His companion smiled: "How many," he asked, "so profess? But, waiving this question, I understand what a Catholic means by saying that he goes by the voice of the Church; it means, practically, by the voice of the first priest he meets. Every priest is the voice of the Church. This is quite intelligible. In matters of doctrine, he has faith in the word of any priest. But what, where, is that 'word' of the Church which the persons you speak of believe in? and when do they exercise their belief? Is it not an undeniable fact, that, so far from all Anglican clergymen agreeing together in faith, what the first says, the second will unsay? so that an Anglican cannot, if he would, have faith in them, and necessarily, though he would not, chooses between them. How, then, has faith a place in the religion of an Anglican?"

"Well," said Charles, "I am sure I know a good many persons—and if you knew the Church of England as I do, you would not need me to tell you—who, from knowledge of the Gospels, have an absolute conviction and an intimate sense of the reality of the sacred facts contained in them, which, whether you call it faith or not, is powerful enough to colour their whole being with its influence, and rules their heart and conduct as {382} well as their imagination. I can't believe that these persons are out of God's favour; yet, according to your account of the matter, they have not faith."

"Do you think these persons believe and practise all that is brought home to them as being in Scripture?" asked his companion.

"Certainly they do," answered Charles, "as far as man can judge."

"Then perhaps they may be practising the virtue of faith; if there are passages in it to which they are insensible, as about the sacraments, penance, and extreme unction, or about the See of Peter, I should in charity think that these passages had never been brought home or applied to their minds and consciences—just as a Pope's Bull may be for a time unknown in a distant part of the Church. They may be [Note] in involuntary ignorance. Yet I fear that, taking the whole nation, there are few who on this score can lay claim to faith."

Charles said this did not fully meet the difficulty; faith, in the case of these persons, at least was not faith in the word of the Church. His companion would not allow this; he said they received the Scripture on the testimony of the Church, that at least they were believing the word of God, and the like.

Presently Charles said, "It is to me a great mystery how the English people, as a whole, is ever to have faith again; is there evidence enough for faith?" {383}

His new friend looked surprised and not over-pleased; "Surely," he said, "in matter of fact, a man may have more evidence for believing the Church to be the messenger of God, than he has for believing the four Gospels to be from God. If, then, he already believes the latter, why should he not believe the former?"

"But the belief in the Gospels is a traditional belief," said Charles; "that makes all the difference. I cannot see how a nation like England, which has lost the faith, ever can recover it. Hence, in the matter of conversion, Providence has generally visited simple and barbarous nations."

"The converts of the Roman Empire were, I suppose, a considerable exception," said the priest.

"Still it seems to me a great difficulty," answered Charles; "I do not see, when the dogmatic structure is once broken down, how it is ever to be built up again. I fancy there is a passage somewhere in Carlyle's 'French Revolution' on the subject, in which the author laments over the madness of men's destroying what they could not replace, what it would take centuries and a strange combination of fortunate circumstances to reproduce, an external received creed. I am not denying, God forbid! the objectivity of revelation, or saying that faith is a sort of happy and expedient delusion; but, really, the evidence for revealed doctrine is so built up on probabilities that I do not see what is to introduce it into a civilised community, where reason has been cultivated to the utmost, and argument is the test of truth. Many a man will say, 'Oh, that I had been educated a Catholic!' but he has not so been; and he {384} finds himself unable, though wishing, to believe, for he has not evidence enough to subdue his reason. What is to make him believe?"

His fellow-traveller had for some time shown signs of uneasiness; when Charles stopped, he said, shortly, but quietly, "What is to make him believe? the will, his will".

Charles hesitated: he proceeded: "If there is evidence enough to believe Scripture, and we see that there is, I repeat, there is more than enough to believe the Church. The evidence is not in fault; all it requires is to be brought home or applied to the mind; if belief does not then follow, the fault lies with the will."

"Well," said Charles, "I think there is a general feeling among educated Anglicans, that the claims of the Roman Church do not rest on a sufficiently intellectual basis; that the evidences, or notes, were well enough for a rude age, not for this. This is what makes me despair of the growth of Catholicism."

His companion looked round curiously at him, and then said, quietly, "Depend upon it, there is quite evidence enough for a moral conviction that the Catholic or Roman Church, and none other, is the voice of God".

"Do you mean," said Charles, with a beating heart, "that before conversion one can attain to a present abiding actual conviction of this truth?"

"I do not know," answered the other; "but, at least, he may have habitual moral certainty; I mean, a conviction, and one only, steady, without rival conviction, or even reasonable doubt, present to him when he is {385} most composed and in his hours of solitude, and flashing on him from time to time, as through clouds, when he is in the world;—a conviction to this effect, 'The Roman Catholic Church is the one only voice of God, the one only way of salvation'."

"Then you mean to say," said Charles, while his heart beat faster, "that such a person is under no duty to wait for clearer light."

"He will not have, he cannot expect, clearer light before conversion. Certainty, in its highest sense, is the reward of those who, by an act of the will, and at the dictate of reason and prudence, embrace the truth, when nature, like a coward, shrinks. You must make a venture; faith is a venture before a man is a Catholic; it is a gift after it. You approach the Church in the way of reason, you enter into it in the light of the Spirit."

Charles said that he feared there was a great temptation operating on many well-informed and excellent men, to find fault with the evidence for Catholicity, and to give over the search, on the excuse that there were arguments on both sides.

"It is not one set of men," answered his companion; "it is the grievous deficiency in Englishmen altogether. Englishmen have many gifts, faith they have not. Other nations, inferior to them in many things, still have faith. Nothing will stand in place of it; not a sense of the beauty of Catholicism, or of its awfulness, or of its antiquity; not an appreciation of the sympathy which it shows towards sinners; not an admiration of the Martyrs and early Fathers, and a delight in their {386} writings. Individuals may display a touching gentleness, or a conscientiousness which demands our reverence; still, till they have faith, they have not the foundation, and their superstructure will fall. They will not be blessed, they will effect nothing in religious matters, till they begin by an act of unreserved faith in the word of God, whatever it be; till they go out of themselves; till they cease to make something within them their standard; till they oblige their will to perfect what reason leaves sufficient, indeed, but incomplete. And when they shall recognise this defect in themselves, and try to remedy it, then they will recognise much more;—they will be on the road very shortly to be Catholics."

There was nothing in all this exactly new to Reding; but it was pleasant to hear it from the voice of another, and him a priest. Thus he had sympathy and authority, and felt he was restored to himself. The conversation stopped. After a while he disclosed to his new friend the place for which he was bound, which, after what Charles had already been saying, could be no great surprise to him. The latter knew the Superior of San Michaele, and, taking out a card, wrote upon it a few words of introduction for him. By this time they had reached Paddington; and scarcely had the train stopped, when the priest took his small carpet-bag from under his seat, wrapped his cloak around him, stepped out of the carriage, and was walking out of sight at a brisk pace.

Chapter 3-7

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"Errantes invincibiliter circa aliquos articulos, et credentes alios, non sunt formaliter hæretici, sed habent fidem supernaturalem, quâ credunt veros articulos, atque adeo ex eâ possunt procedere actus perfectæ contritionis, quibus justificentur et salventur."—De Lugo de Fid., p. 169.
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